The Floating Bridge of Gibraltar

gib01A few weeks ago, I wrote an article exploring a German Architect Herman Sörgel’s ideas about building a huge dam across the Strait of Gibraltar (see article “Atlantropa: Draining the Mediterranean Sea“). While researching the article, I came across another interesting, if somewhat over-ambitious, idea regarding the Strait of Gibraltar. This idea comes from American architect Eugene Tsui, and involves building the world’s largest floating bridge.

Engineers have long dreamed of connecting the continents of Europe and Africa via road and rail, and the Strait of Gibraltar has long been the focus of such designs. However, while this waterway may at first seem like the ideal location for the building of a bridge, engineers have continually found the designing of such a bridge to be fraught with problems. The 9 mile span of the crossing would be problematic enough, but the extremely hard bedrock that sits beneath would also pose a challenge. Add to this the number of ships that use the strait every day, and the need to keep the waterway open to large shipping vessels, and you’ve got yourself an engineering nightmare.

Floating Gibraltar BridgeAmerican architect Eugene Tsui’s brainwave was to build a bridge that would require no structural support from below, and that would allow the passage of ships not under it, but below it. It would be a floating bridge; the largest ever constructed.

Tsui’s Gibraltar bridge design is composed of two buoyant tunnels connected to a central floating island. Each tunnel would dip beneath the water of the straight, allowing ships to pass overhead, but maintain a constant depth due to their own buoyancy and the support of the floating island to which they would connect. Having the roadway rise to this central island would also provide ventilation for its underwater sections. The 3 mile long floating island would also feature a marina, resort, market, convention center, and a number of wind turbines.

Flexible materials would allow the bridge to withstand tidal forces, and variable ballast sections built into the submerged tunnels would allow them to be set at the optimal depth.

Gibraltar floating bridge tunnel

Financed by Spain, Morocco and the European Union, it would take seven years to complete and would link the towns of Punta Cires in Morocco with Tarifa in Spain, and provide intercontinental travel for around 60 million people each year.

In a rather clever twist, the bridge would also be environmentally friendly and produce huge amounts of electricity, much like Sörgel’s Atlantropa Dam.

The central floating island would support an incredible 150 wind turbines, harnessing the strong winds that are channeled into the narrow strait. The submerged tunnels would also generate electricity, with 80 tidal turbines build into their superstructure. Collectively, these power plants would generate enough to power the entire nation of Morocco and several thousand Spanish homes.

Gibraltar floating bridge

While officials have said that they are taking the floating bridge concept seriously, they are currently favoring a plan to dig a much longer road tunnel underneath the strait, bypassing the hard bedrock that has thwarted previous tunneling attempts.

Architect Eugene Tsui’s portfolio of ambitious design concepts also includes the 2 mile high Ultima Tower.